2015 won’t offer any rest for media’s big two.

The year is approaching its end with uncertainty over the future shape of the two big media corporates - MediaWorks, owner of TV3, and NZME., owner of the Herald.

Both firms have been considering a sale or share float, though nothing has yet come to fruition.

This week Morgan Stanley sold its 6.5 per cent stake in MediaWorks to Cayman Islands-based Minot Light APAC, suggesting there might be some speculative investment opportunities.

Minot Light has links to Bain Capital, the private equity owner of iHeartRadio (formerly Clear Channel), so the investor knows media.


Elsewhere, Australian news outlets hinted that Seven West Media - owner of the Seven Network and Pacific Magazines, among other things - is interested in a stake in MediaWorks.

Seven has been suggested as a potential buyer of TV3 many times.

Meanwhile, APN News & Media - owner of NZME. - has been on roadshows talking to investors and is not ruling out the idea of a float in the future. It has hired new consultants to consider ways of earning revenue from its digital assets such as nzherald.co.nz.

Would a merger of the two groups add up to more than their individual value? MediaWorks has TV3 and Four and half the commercial radio sector, but its digital asset tv3.co.nz is not yet developed.

NZME.'s digital assets, led by nzherald.co.nz, are more developed and lie alongside its newspaper and radio operations. It might want TV assets, in particular, because video content is seen as being so important to the future of digital media and advertising.

Obviously, the two groups' ownership of radio assets creates a major problem. Between them, NZME. and MediaWorks constitute a radio duopoly, and it seems unlikely the notion of one company controlling almost all of commercial radio would go unchallenged by advertisers. Complicating the issue is the fact that both companies are being developed as multi-media firms, with their stars working across brands.

Unlike other countries, New Zealand has no specific cross-media ownership rules, but a well-placed media player - who works with neither firm - doubts such a deal would pass muster with the Commerce Commission.

The Herald is owned by NZME. but I stress I have no inside knowledge on the way ahead.


Henry slap bang

This is an astonishing time for media, and change will only speed up next year. At NZME. there has already been a big change under new CEO Jane Hastings, with closer ties between the Herald, radio and GrabOne.

Meanwhile, MediaWorks is taking a big risk in deciding to put Paul Henry slap bang at the centre of its TV and talk radio schedules.

Chief executive Mark Weldon is said to be confident Henry can do what has not been done elsewhere - front a new weekday breakfast TV show that is simulcast on radio.

Weldon is a Henry fan and a TV industry source says he believes Henry is so well known that radio listeners will be able to visualise his TV performance.

Weldon - best known for his tenure as head of the NZX - is said to be loving his exposure to the media world. Staff say he is playing a hands-on role developing the new show.

A key issue for Weldon and the board, looking for a buyer, is to create a line-up that makes MediaWorks competitive in the same media markets as its rivals.

A double shot of Henry in the morning is a big risk for RadioLive, but MediaWorks has been bold before.

The company used its period in receivership to negotiate out of deals with Hollywood studios and other programme suppliers. TV3 lost Australian teen soap Home and Away, hurting ratings and ad revenue, and TV3 now has a thin line-up of top US shows, but the strategy has succeeded in removing a load of surplus programming from its vaults.

Apps apocalypse

It's old news that people are turning to mobiles for their digital communications, but the next big thing may be geo-location advertising, or geo-marketing.

Auckland University marketing academic Mike Lee says the main limit is this country's low population density and the resulting shortfall in telecoms infrastructure, which limits the power of geo-locating apps.

If you have such an app, rather than sending a message to your laptop at home, marketers will be able to send you the message when you're, say, within 400m of a certain shop, where you're more likely to act on the message.

"But for that to happen you need a much stronger telecommunications industry for competition that would bring innovation and more coverage."

Some companies are taking the dire risk of being left behind in the move to mobile, Lee believes. Big companies have the resources to make the move, but smaller ones face more risk. "If a firm isn't well resourced it may be too late to get on the bandwagon and adjust to apps on mobiles, adjust websites so they give the ultimate display on mobile."